Roaming Fork, Charlotte’s first food truck, is one of the city’s most popular trucks and catering outfits. Thrillist called it “a classic stop on the food truck highway.” It’s mission is simple: Roaming Fork is committed to satisfying anyone’s food cravings, on any budget. We spoke to the truck’s current owner, Jenn Sibrava, about how she designed the truck’s menu of high-end plates turned into accessible comfort foods (one of Charlotte’s favorite food trends), and what it’s like balancing her truck service with catering responsibilities.
Sibrava: Roaming Fork was started in 2010 by a woman named Kelli Crisan. She eventually decided she couldn’t do it anymore, and I took over the business in 2014. I went to culinary school at the CIA in New York and studied international cuisine. Every time I worked in a high-end restaurant I always felt bad knowing that not everyone was lucky enough to indulge in the kinds of dishes we were making. So I came up with the idea to take fine dining plates and break them down into small plates and sandwiches and make them affordable for everyone. That’s how my version of Roaming Fork came about.
Sibrava: Our menu on the truck changes every single day, based on what’s in season. We try to tailor the food to whatever neighborhood we are in, and what those demographics are. For example, we have places where, surprisingly, burgers aren’t that popular, or places where people love pork. Right now we are doing a seasonal dish — it’s a pumpkin mac-and-cheese and chicken melt with smoked Gouda cheese and applewood smoked bacon. It’s really popular. I’ll also be rolling out holiday specials soon.
Sibrava: I tried to make sure there was something on the menu that everybody could enjoy. No matter who you are, you can find something. I know there are people who are health conscious, so we have a nice variety of salads. I don’t want anyone to look at the menu and think we are too expensive, so there’s a good variety of dishes at different price points. I also didn’t want to be too specific. It always turns me off when a catering menu assumes everyone has the same palate. Variety is key.It always turns me off when a catering menu assumes everyone has the same palate. Variety is key. Click To Tweet
Sibrava: We do gourmet grilled cheeses, and one of our most popular has 18-hour smoked pork, red onions, and barbecue sauce, all pressed on sourdough bread. We also make the best fish tacos. They are not battered and fried — we just blacken the fish and pan-sear it. It is very flavorful but still on the healthy side.
Sibrava: It is a little chaotic! We are a small business, so we are limited on what we can do, but I like to think big and take on whatever challenge that comes my way, even if it means I have to stay at the kitchen late to get things done for the next day. I want to grow and get bigger and the only way to do that is to get our name out there through as many avenues as possible. The more we can touch people and make them happy with our food — that’s the best way to get there.
Sibrava: In terms of challenges, time is the biggest thing. A lot of the time, the truck will conflict with a catering order, and we don’t have a huge staff. So I’ll have to take someone off the lunch rush to drop that order off.
Sibrava: With catering, you don’t have to go to a location, sit there, and wait for people to come to you. You know how many people you will take care of, it’s already paid for, and it’s not a guessing game.
Sibrava: We have a separate commissary- which I would recommend to others who try to do both. The downfall of the food truck is that you are limited in what you can do off the truck — not every truck will be equipped like a kitchen. You don’t have an oven to throw a turkey into. Everything has to do be done faster and on a small scale on the truck. Having a full kitchen elsewhere opens up a lot of doors.
Sibrava: People tend to look at dollar signs and think that the more clientele, the better. But if every client you work with is not satisfied then you are hurting yourself in the long run. It’s not about how many people we can get as fast as we can; it’s about how many people we can get in and make sure they will return. It’s quality over quantity.
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